Cleaning Out The DVR: Picnic (dir by Joshua Logan)


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Tonight, I continued to clean out the DVR by watching the 1955 film Picnic.

Now, Picnic is kind of a strange film.  It’s one of those films from 50s that takes place in a small town where everyone is obsessed with sex but, since it’s the 1950s, nobody can just come out and say that they’re talking about sex.  So, instead, all of the dialogue is very discreet.  For instance, when Madge Owen (Kim Novak) talks to her mother, Flo (Betty Owens), about her date with her boyfriend, Alan (Cliff Robertson), Madge confesses that they spent the night kissing.  Flo asks if Madge if they have done anything more than kiss but, of course, she never comes straight out and says what “more” would be.  The audience knows what she’s talking about but it’s as if the world would actually end if anyone actually uttered the word.  “Oh mom!”  an embarrassed Madge says before confirming that she and Alan haven’t done anything more than kiss.

Flo desperately wants Madge to marry Alan because Alan is rich and his father owns the town’s grain elevator.  Marrying Alan would allow Flo to move up in the town’s strict social hierarchy.  However, Madge isn’t sure that she loves Alan.  Certainly, Alan seems to be a good man with a good future but he’s not a romantic.  Instead, he is someone who has his entire life already mapped out for him.

On Labor Day, a stranger comes to town.  His name is Hal Carter and he shows up riding on a freight train.  He’s come into town to see his old friend, Alan.  It turns out that Hal and Alan went to college together and were members of the same fraternity.  Hal was a star football player but he eventually flunked out of school and has spent the last few years drifting around the country.  However, Hal is now ready to settle down and he wonders if his old roommate Alan can get him a job at the grain elevator.

Now, here’s the strange part.  Hal is played by William Holden.  When he made Picnic, William Holden was 38 years old and looked closer to being 45.  (By contrast, Cliff Robertson, in the role of his former college roommate, was 32 and looked like he was 25.)  Hal spends a lot of time talking about his traumatic childhood and how he is finally ready to settle down and start acting like an adult.  In short, Hal talks like a 30 year-old but he looks like he’s nearly 50.  It’s odd to watch.  But even beyond the age issue, William Holden was an actor who always came across as being both confident and cynical.  Hal is a secret romantic with a deep streak of insecurity.  As great an actor as he may have been, William Holden is so thoroughly miscast here that it actually becomes fascinating to watch.  It brings a whole new subtext to the film as you find yourself wondering why no one is town finds it strange that a middle-aged man is still struggling to deal with his childhood.  When all the town’s young women ogle that shirtless Hal, it’s as if he’s wandered into a town populated only by teenagers with daddy issues.

(Paul Newman played the role of Hal in a Broadway production of Picnic.  And really, that’s who the ideal Hal would have been, a young Paul Newman.)

The majority of the film takes place at the town’s Labor Day picnic, where almost every woman in town is driven to distraction by the sight of Hal dancing.  Even the spinster teacher, Rosemary (Rosalind Russell), is so turned on by Hal’s masculinity that she makes a pass at him and accidentally rips his shirt.  Of course, some of Rosemary’s behavior is due to the fact that she’s drunk.  Her date, the befuddled Howard Bevans (Arthur O’Connell), made the mistake of being whiskey to the picnic.

Hal also dances with Madge’s 13 year-old sister, Millie (Susan Strasberg).  I have to admit that, even though I related strongly to Madge, Millie was my favorite character in the film.  Millie wears glasses and can recite Shakespeare from memory.  She knows that everyone around her is full of it and she’s willing to call them on it.  Of course, Millie herself ends up with a crush on Hal and it’s a dream for her when she finally gets to dance with him.

(Strasberg was 17 years old but is believable as a 13 year-old.  At the same time, since Hal appears to be nearly 50, his sudden closeness to Millie carries an icky, if unintentional, subtext.)

But then Madge suddenly appears, wearing a pink dress and literally emerging from the black night.  She starts to sway to the music.  As she slowly approaches Hal, he forgets about Millie and soon is dancing with Madge.  It’s actually a rather striking scene, one that so full of dream-like sensuality that it almost seems more like it was directed by surrealist David Lynch as opposed to the usually workmanlike Joshua Logan.

(In the video below, the scene freezes about 12 seconds in, before starting up again at the 16 second mark.  This is a glitch with the upload and is not present in the actual film.)

Needless to say, a drifter can’t just come into town and steal his ex-roommate’s girlfriend without drama following.  Picnic starts out as a slightly overheated examination of small town morality and then, after about an hour, it goes the full melodrama route, complete with police chases, stolen cars, a fist fight in an ornate mansion, and a lot of big speeches about the importance of love.  Needless to say, it’s all a lot of fun.

Picnic was nominated for best picture of the year.  However, it lost to the far more low-key Marty.

Happy Birthday, Jean Harlow: THE BEAST OF THE CITY (MGM 1932)


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In honor of Jean Harlow’s birthday (born March 3, 1911), TCM ran a Harlow marathon today. Since I was at work, I recorded a few of them. I couldn’t wait to get home and view THE BEAST OF THE CITY for three reasons: 1) Harlow, of course, 2) it’s a Pre-Code film I’ve never seen, and 3) it was directed by Charles Brabin, who gave us the devilishly decadent THE MASK OF FU MANCHU. I’d heard a lot about this movie and its violent ending, and though not nearly as gruesome as today’s films, it’s vigilante justice packs a punch that must’ve been pretty shocking in 1932.

The movie starts off with a forward from President Hoover (that’s Herbert, kids, not J. Edgar) decrying the glorification of gangsters in films, and saying we should be glorifying the police instead. We then get into the story, as we find Captain Jim Fitzgerald (aka “Fighting…

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Hallmark Review: I Do, I Do, I Do (2015, dir. Ron Oliver)


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I didn’t want to see another movie starring Autumn Reeser right now. I didn’t want to see another movie written by Nancey Silvers right now. However, I haven’t done a Ron Oliver movie in awhile, and he has been nice to me in the past. So let’s talk about I Do, I Do, I Do.

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The movie opens up and we meet Jaclyn Palmer (Autumn Reeser) on the right, her sister Kate (Ali Liebert), and Kate’s camera. This time Hallmark is more subtle with the camera. No obvious Nikon camera strap. Also, it’s a Canon camera anyways. Just thought I would point that out for long time Hallmark fans who remember the Nikon product placement scenes from movies like For The Love Of Grace. Oh, and you can easily miss that Kate is her sister. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t tell you till later. Up till then my Dad and I thought they were just old friends. Even the credits of this movie don’t tell you.

Then probably the weirdest way I’ve seen the wrong guy introduced in a Hallmark movie happens. Jaclyn and Kate are in front of a hospital. An ambulance pulls up, someone is wheeled out of the back of it. Then up springs Dr. Peter Lorenzo (Antonio Cupo) from the gurney.

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He comes over and proposes to Jaclyn while someone films them. I’m quite sure he arranged to have someone film it. At the very least it winds up on sort of YouTube.

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That’s a lot of views! Obviously Dr. Peter Lorenzo is the PewDewPie of doctors. It goes without saying that she accepts his proposal. Now she’s off to some hotel in the woods next to a lake that’s probably in other Hallmark movies. After Autumn does her best shocked look as she pulls up to see a big sign that says “Jaclyn & Peter Forever”, she is greeted by his parents. It’s always a good sign when your mother-in-law to be says this to you.

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Jaclyn is introduced to more craziness such as the “Bridal Cabin” and the wedding dress her soon to be Mom wants her to wear. Seeing as Jaclyn doesn’t like her wedding dress and she arrived in a car, she of course proceeds to get on a bike to ride through the woods to get to town.

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You got me! My only guess is that since her husband is crazy about health and forces that on Jaclyn too, that she felt she had to use a bike instead of a car. Why she has to go through the woods, I have no idea. Regardless, as she is traveling through the woods she runs into Peter’s brother Max played by Shawn Roberts.

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You know, Dexter Durant from Recipe For Love, or Dean if you are a fan of Degrassi: TNG. Since Jaclyn’s sister mentioned earlier that she wishes the two of them could throw caution to the wind like when they were younger, Max jumps off a ledge into the water. You can think of Max as basically the complete opposite of his brother. Oh, and they kiss for reasons. It kind of comes out of nowhere. Let’s move this along now by leaping over some scenes to get to the good stuff.

The next big thing that happens is that Jaclyn wakes up the next day. That day happens to be Valentine’s Day when her wedding is because who gets married on Groundhog Day? Yes, this is one of those movies. People burst into her room to make her up for Peter’s mother’s dream wedding. I think this shot sums up how Jaclyn feels about this.

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You may notice that there is a wipe transition in progress in that shot. Director Ron Oliver uses them a bunch in this movie to good effect. George Lucas used them in Star Wars. It’s a good way to maintain a quick pace by giving you no time to mourn the loss of what was onscreen. It just picks you up from one scene and throws you into the next one. He also matches this with how he progressively shortens the days. Groundhog Day (1993) and the Groundhog Day episode of Stargate-SG1 did this too.

The marriage happens, but it’s a little rocky including wine getting spilled on her. That’s when back at the Bridal Cabin, Jaclyn wishes for a do-over, and her proposal video rolls over to 1,000,000 views.

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Poor Ron Oliver! His video in upper right hand corner only has 567,983 views. At first I thought they would repeat that the way the clock would turn over in Groundhog Day, but it doesn’t. The equivalent here is the phone next to her bed, which rings with a wake up call.

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This time she shows up with heavy eyeshadow and blush. I guess she is trying to maybe get him to not want to marry her. No such luck.

On the next repeat she starts to flip out. I love that they even bring up the possibility that she’s on drugs.

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The doctor thinks she might have cold feet. She keeps telling him she’s living the same day over and over. So of course the doctor says he is going to get her tested for drugs. To get away from crazy town, Jaclyn flees with Max to the main set of the movie.

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Remember the whole learning how to play the piano thing from Groundhog Day? That’s the kind of things that start to happen as the repeats get shorter and shorter. The first thing is to overcome her fear of the water. She didn’t used to be afraid of the water, but Peter kind of got her scared of taking any risks. Apparently, this included going into the water for her. So over the course of several loops Max takes her further and further into the water.

Once that is done, the next thing on the roster is to finally learning how to dance. Again, this repeats over several days. I have to give credit to whoever was responsible for the continuity on this film for these scenes. Take a look.

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Those are from two loops that follow each other. Note that his outfit doesn’t change. It wouldn’t because since he isn’t aware of the time loop, he would be always wearing the same thing. However, since she is aware of the time loop, she wears something different. It’s a nice little detail that also helps to make sure we know another loop has gone by without having to cutaway from the beach.

With that done, learning Italian is next for Jaclyn. The reason for this is that earlier a member of Peter’s family came up to her and just assumed that Max and her were together. However, the whole conversation was in Italian and they lie to her about what she said. She spends several loops learning Italian.

Next is picking out a wedding dress she likes. She even has the wedding she seems to like, but of course Max isn’t convinced. Obviously Max is lord of time because she wakes up once again.

After spending more time with Max, we get the sort of YouTube thing at the start of another time loop.

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I guess we know which one of the producers on this movie was the most important seeing as Kevin Leeson’s Seagull video has 996,876 views over Dan Paulson’s 36,995 views. Although, the production coordinator Alison Stephen tops them all with her 2.9 million views.

Anyways, this is when Jaclyn finally decides to stop the loop by saying that she doesn’t want to marry him. Just like in Bridal Wave, it turns out getting married wasn’t really something either of them wanted to do. She seemed to have been swept off her feet and he was kind of under pressure from his Mom. Even Dad chimes in to tell Mom to sit down here. When somebody tells you to sit down with these eyes…

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then you sit down.

She and Max fall asleep at the beach. The time loop breaks, and they wake up together. After jumping in the water, they go and get married.

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My final thought on this one is that it comes in third out of the four Groundhog Day movies/TV episodes I’ve seen. The first two are Groundhog Day and the Stargate SG-1 episode. However, number four, called Pete’s Christmas, is a huge drop off from this one. I really didn’t like that film. So check out the Stargate SG-1 episode called Window of Opportunity, and this one too. I recommend it.

Here are the songs from the credits:

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Here’s The First Trailer For The New Ghostbusters!


The first trailer for the new Ghostbusters film was released today and you can watch it below.  The trailer is mildly promising, less because of the jokes featured (the majority of which are pretty predictable) and more because of the talent assembled on-screen.

That said, once you get past the fact that all of the Ghostbusters are played by genuinely funny women, you’re left with what appears to be another film about three super smart white women and their sassy black friend.  Watching the trailer, it’s hard not to notice that the three white women are all scientists while the only black woman works for the transportation authority and, of course, has a relative who is an undertaker.  The trailer’s final moment, with Leslie Jones slapping a spirit out of Melissa McCarthy, is obviously meant to be a big crowd-pleasing moment but it feels more like a case of racial caricature.  It certainly feels far more stereotypical than anything that Ernie Hudson was ever required to do or say in the original Ghostbusters.

(Then again, Ernie Hudson really didn’t have much to do or say….)

I mean, seriously — would it have killed them to make the black woman a scientist too?

“THE GUILTY WILL BE PUNISHED!”: The Punisher (1989, directed by Mark Goldblatt)


The-Punisher“What the fuck do you call 125 murders in 5 years?”

“Work in progress.”

With that line, Dolph Lundgren claimed the role of Frank Castle as his own.

Who is Frank Castle?  A former cop, he was mistakenly believed to be dead after mobsters killed his wife and children.  He has spent five years waging a one man war on the Mafia.  When not killing the criminal element, he spends his time naked in the sewers and having conversations with God.

“Come on God,” he says, “answer me. For years I’m asking why, why are the innocent dead and the guilty alive? Where is justice? Where is punishment? Or have you already answered, have you already said to the world here is justice, here is punishment, here, in me.”

Everyone knows him as the Punisher.  Only his former partner, Detective Berkowtiz (Lou Gossett, Jr.) suspects that the Punisher is actually Frank Castle.

Frank has been so effective in his one-man war on crime that the Mafia is now permanently weakened.  Plotting to take over city’s underworld, the Yakuza arrives in New York City.  Their leader, Lady Tanaka (Kim Miyori), kidnaps the son of Gianni Franco (Jereon Krabbe) and threatens to kill him unless Franco turns his operation over to her.  The Punisher and Franco team up to rescue Franco’s son and to destroy the Yakuza.  Even as the two works together, the Punisher makes sure that Franco knows that he will be punished for being a criminal.

“There’s a limit to revenge, you know,” Franco says.

“I guess I haven’t reached mine yet,” The Punisher answers.

With the current popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it is easy to forget that, in the 80s and 90s, almost all Marvel movies were straight-to-video affairs like this one, made with budgets so low that they could not even afford a Stan Lee cameo.  The Punisher was one of the few halfway entertaining ones.  It may not be a great movie but when compared to the 1990 version of Captain America or the Roger Corman-produced Fantastic Four, The Punisher looks like a masterpiece.  When this movie was first released, The Punisher was one of the most popular of Marvel’s characters, starring in three separate titles.  While the movie embraces the Punisher’s violent methods and reactionary worldview, it also make some unnecessary chances to the character, not only tweaking his origin story by making Frank a former cop (instead of a grieving father whose family fell victim to random mob violence) but also doing away with The Punisher’s iconic skull shirt.

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Marvel’s Punisher

Dolph Lundgren's Punisher

Dolph Lundgren’s Punisher

Can a punisher without a skull still be The Punisher?

Surprisingly, he can.  Dolph Lundgren is not only physically right for the role but he is also believable as a psychologically damaged vigilante.  This Punisher could teach Deadpool a thing or two.  After the Punisher kills one gangster in front of the man’s terrified son, he tells him, “Stay a good boy and grow up to be a good man.  Because if you don’t, I’ll be waiting.”  When the boy aims his father’s gun at him, the Punisher places his forehead against the barrel and says, “Do it.”  When you consider that The Punisher was originally introduced, in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, as someone who would shoot jaywalkers because they had broken the law, you can see that Lundgren’s performance really gets to the twisted soul of the character.

Even without the skull, Lundgren’s Punisher is still far superior to the versions played by Tomas Jane and Ray Stevenson.  When Jon Bernthal plays the role in the second season of Daredevil (and officially brings the character into the MCU), he will hopefully have learned some lessons from watching Dolph Lundgren.

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